Lead agricultural scientists from G20 member countries gathered in Tokyo, Japan last month to discuss ways to promote science and technology as mechanisms to support the global food system.
The Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS), which took place on April 25-26 in Tokyo, focused on identifying global research priorities in agriculture and ways to facilitate collaboration among G20 members and with relevant stakeholders. The purpose is to develop a global agenda ahead of the May 11-12 meeting of G20 Agricultural Ministers.
CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) Program Manager Victor Kommerell was among the attendees.
“It is essential to advocate for science-based decision making,” he said. “Better connecting the dots between national agricultural research agendas and the CGIAR international agenda is important. The G20 wheat initiative and WHEAT have made a good start.”
The threat of pests and the importance of adopting climate smart technology came up as high priorities.
Transboundary pests have become a serious threat to food security, exacerbated by the globalized movement of people and commodities and the changing climate. As Kommerell commented to the attendees, pathogens and pests cause global crop losses of 20 to 30 percent. This has a “double penalty” effect, wasting both food and resources invested in farming inputs.
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is particularly focused on pests and diseases threatening maize and wheat, such as Fall armyworm and wheat rust and blast. Kommerell summarized a number of research-based solutions underway thanks to international collaboration – including building globally-accessible rapid screening facilities and using wild crop relatives as a genetic source for resistance. But non-technical solutions, such as boosting awareness and communicating preventative farming practices are also important.
The agricultural field is especially vulnerable to the effects of changing climate and weather variability, while at the same time heavily contributing as a source of greenhouse gases. Innovative agricultural technologies and practices are essential for sustainable production, climate resilience and carbon sequestration as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The key, the attendees concluded in a meeting communiqué, is the open and international exchange of knowledge, experience, and practices. Networks are already in place, but need strengthening at both the regional and international level.
To that end, a task force led by Australia and the United States will develop guidelines for working groups and initiatives designed to mitigate pests and scale adoption of climate smart technologies.
The government of Japan is also taking an active role, with plans to hold international conferences this year to facilitate sharing of experiences, research, and best practices from G20 countries.